Building » Harrogate – St Joseph

Harrogate – St Joseph

Skipton Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

An attractive, quirky Arts and Crafts Gothic design, built originally as a school-cum-church. The building forms a pleasing element in the local townscape.

At the turn of the twentieth century Bilton was a small, sparsely populated hamlet. The nearby Harrogate Hall had been owned by the recusant Trapp family. St Joseph’s was originally built as an act of thanksgiving by the people of St Robert’s, Harrogate to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the opening of that church. Initially St Joseph’s acted as a chapel-of-ease and was served from St Robert’s. Locally it was known as the chapel in the fields but with Harrogate’s rapid growth to the north around the Bilton and New Park areas, it became a separate parish in 1929. The architect of the church was W. H. H. Marten of Leeds, who was also responsible for the original church at neighbouring St Aelred’s and the later church at Addingham. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Cowgill on 17 July, 1924 and the first Mass was on 30 July 1925.

In 1979, to mark the Golden Jubilee of the formation of the parish the sanctuary was reordered with a forward altar and the removal of the brass altar rails. The sacristy in the south transept was opened out to provide additional seating three years later. The most recent refurbishment in 2000/1 saw the building of a two-storey extension to the rear, containing a narthex, stairs, lift and baptistery.


A small, honey-coloured stone building with pale-grey stone quoins and dressings. Red clay pantile roof with wooden dormers to the north and south. The plan is roughly T-shaped with the bar forming the front range and a longer range to the rear. The front elevation is asymmetrical with a central castellated section and a steep central gable framing a vesica-shaped window and statue of St Joseph. Irregular ranges to either side, to the left a two-storey section, again castellated with stone mullion windows, to the right a gable with adjoining archway and step raising to the first floor.     The rear range to the south side is of two storeys, with large mullioned windows to the ground floor, smaller windows at clerestory level and three dormer windows. The unusual design reflects the fact that originally the church was on the upper storey while the ground floor was used as a school. Original access to the church was via an external staircase on the north elevation. The new two-storey extension, in matching materials, has provided a large ground floor narthex, and access to the church is now by either the new internal stairs or a lift.

The interior is simple and charming. On plan it consists of a nave with small south and north transepts; the walls are of exposed red brick with a slightly recessed and simply moulded sanctuary arch. The open timber roof is supported by stone octagonal columns forming illusory side aisles, which are lit by small rectangular tripartite mullioned windows. The dormers  provide light which internally appears at clerestory level. The main nave roof is clad with tongue and groove boarding, painted white as are the sides of the dormers. There is an original Ancaster stone reredos with angels flanking the built in tabernacle against the sanctuary wall. Above is a vesica-shaped stained-glass window depicting St Joseph and the Holy Child Jesus, by Barnewell.  A York stone  forward altar from the Bolton Woods quarry was installed in 1979, designed by the architect D. Chambers. The north transept contains a small Lady Chapel with stained glass depicting the Annunciation, by Kathleen Quigley. The refurbishment carried out in 2000/1 allowed the creation of a new baptistery in the original entrance of the church, including a new wooden font.

Heritage Details

Architect: W. H. H. Marten

Original Date: 1925

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed